Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Tests . . .

One of the things that differentiates 4th grade from 5th grade will be sending home tests the students take. While I'm not a fan of test giving (or test taking), students need to develop an awareness that as they enter middle school, tests will be used to evaluate and grade them on a regular basis. When I grade tests, there are a number of things I do:

1) I go over the test answers and provide as much feedback with students as possible. I also go over test answers in case I made a mistake and incorrectly marked an answer wrong or correct. I make mistakes too and am well aware of this!

2) Students add up their points to see if they match the number of points I gave. If not I adjust.

3) I have students calculate their own percentages of how much they got correct. Then they compare the percentage with the South Carolina grading scale.

4) I asked students to reflect on why they did or did not do well. The typical response was "I could have participated more" and "I should have asked more questions when I did not understand."

Today I will be sending home a social studies test. Up at the top is a point value out of 90 points. Then in pencil somewhere, your child calculated their percentage and grade. Please talk over the test with your child. Then sign and return the test back to school by Friday. Students should be able to articulate how they did because we reflected on this together in class. 

Remember, tests are a snapshot of how your child is doing - it's not the whole picture. It is impossible to sum up the knowledge of a child (let alone anyone) based on one test. Too many variables come into play when a someone takes a test (e.g., didn't I eat, I am tired, I had a rough morning) that can affect the outcome. I believe that tests, in conjunction with daily classwork and observational notes, provides a better assessment of how your child is doing. If your child brings home a test, and they didn't do well, it does not mean they are failing. But it is important to discuss how they could do better.

At the same time, I'm a realist and know that at some point, children will need to realize how the use of tests will be used to judge their academic performance. Since I don't give grades, I consider my class a safe environment for my students to learn about the intricacies of test taking such as studying for a test, dealing with the stress and anxiety associated with test taking, and reflecting on the results of test taking to improve further test taking. So as the year continues, we will take tests on occasion and use them as opportunities to improve test taking strategies in preparation for middle school.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to respond.


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Update . . . Before Opening Picnic

I wanted to remind everyone that tomorrow night is Opening Picnic from 6:30 to about 8:00. The first hour of Opening Picnic is all about the picnic and reacquainting with friends. 5th grade is responsible for bringing paper products such as plates and napkins.

After the picnic, you are welcomed to stop by the classroom and have your child give you a brief tour. Not much has changed but your child may be excited about sharing something with you. I will also be in class talking with everyone. I have a brief slideshow that points out some of the differences between 4th grade and 5th grade that I will be emphasizing. If you are unable to make it, I will post the slide show for you to see.

Also, don't forget that next Thursday, September 24th is a half day / early release.

See everyone tomorrow!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Updates for the Week

I hope everyone had a restful Labor Day weekend. As a note, I have updated the class calendar. You can access the calendar on the right side of the blog. I have added some new dates including dates for our 5th grade trip to Camp Kanuga. I have also added our Twitter feed on the right side of the blog. We use Twitter to keep in contact with the citizen science community, the maker community, and we post things we make during explorations. There is also a link to follow us on Twitter if you are interested.

Each week we slowly get back into the thick of things. We have begun our latest DBQ on the Reconstruction Period. You will be seeing these DBQs at home since I will be asking students to work on some of it at home for homework. At the same time, in social studies, we finished collecting information on the Reconstruction Period and are focusing on synthesizing this information.

In math, we are taking a slower, yet more direct view of problem solving and this seems to be working. Students seem a little less anxious and more focused. We have been working on number puzzles in which students have to find a specific number based on clues. These clues involve students having to understand terms such as multiples and factors, prime numbers, square numbers, and composite numbers.

I do want to take the time to emphasize the importance of making sure everyone has their multiplication tables memorized and recall them automatically. Those that seem to be less confident in math at this point are struggling with automaticity of their multiplication tables. As I have emphasized with students, 18 out of 25, 5th grade math standards involve multiplication. I will be sporadically testing kids on their multiplication tables. If they are unable to pass these tests they will be using their explorations time to memorize. You can help by working with your child on their multiplication tables or allowing them to use Multiplication.com, or another website. Any extra help is appreciated.